A 12-YEAR-OLD Glengarriff boy has been named the Young Carer of the Year.
Donagh O’Sullivan from Glengarriff picked up the award at a special ceremony in Dublin last week.
Donagh, a pupil in Scoil Fiachna’s in Glengarriff, helps to care for his younger brother, Diarmaid (11), who has special needs, including autism and global developmental delay.
He is non-verbal and has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Diarmaid needs full-time care and is completely dependent on others for all his needs.
His mother, Julie O’Shea, has three other boys, aged 14 to 18, and while the other brothers are helpful, she says Donagh is exceptional and always goes the extra mile.
‘He stays with Diarmaid for hours, playing with him, tucking him into bed at night, making sure he has his favourite toys and giving up his bed regularly for his brother when he becomes upset as there is just 15 months between the two brothers,’ she said.
Donagh received his award from last year’s Young Carer of the Year, Jamie Mooney from Dublin.
‘I entered him months ago but didn’t say it to anyone,’ his mother, Julie O’Shea, told The Southern Star. ‘I did it online and when they rang me to say he’d won, I wondered was somebody winding me up – but then I realised nobody else knew about it!’
‘He was mortifed,’ she said, adding that she told him when he came in from school that day. ‘But his attitude is “why wouldn’t I look after him? Isn’t he my brother?”. He thinks we are all mad and we have little else to be doing!’
When they arrived in Dublin last week for the ceremony, which was hosted by Marty Whelan and Mary Kennedy, there were about ten reporters waiting to interview them, Julie recalled.
‘I couldn’t believe it – I was expected maybe one. We didn’t realise what a big thing it was,’ she said.
He was later presented with a beautiful Waterford Crystal vase, and Donagh also won a Samsung tablet and phone.
Donagh’s relationship with his brother is so close, that sometimes it’s like he’s even speaking for him, said Julie. ‘If I am doing dinner or getting things ready in the morning, I know that Donagh is looking after him and I don’t have to worry,’ she said.
Although Julie has three other boys – Stephen (19); Feargal (17) and Cathal (14) – Donagh is closest to Diarmaid in age, and they really ‘click’, she said.
While Diarmaid wasn’t aware of all the fuss last week, he did miss Donagh on the day when he was in Dublin. ‘Feargal was looking after him, but Diarmaid really missed him. They are rarely apart – when Diarmaid goes to school at St Joseph’s, he is gone before Donagh, and back after him, so he never knows that Donagh isn’t there during the day.’
Donagh’s cousin and godmother Geraldine Keohane, said that while Diarmaid is non-verbal, Donagh instinctively knows what he wants. ‘He plays with him for hours, and never complains, even if Diarmaid gets cross out of frustration, she said. ‘And he is so unassuming, he never asks for anything in return, and he is so patient.’
Pupils in his class at St Fiachna’s hosted a party in the classroom for him last Friday and had no homework the day after he won the award, so ‘they were delighted with him’, said his mum Julie.
Sponsored by Tunstall Emergency Response, the Carers of the Year awards presented commemorative certificates to all nominees with 22 regional and local Carers of the Year honoured at the ceremony.
There was a very strong entry for this year’s Young Carer award, according to the organisers. A recent Census found there were 4,228 young carers, under the age of 15, in Ireland.